Everyone knows that they shouldn’t make important decisions while they are in a highly emotional state. But when you are going through a divorce and everything is highly emotional, what are you supposed to do? You can’t very well refuse to make any decisions until your divorce is over!
While you can’t flip a switch and turn off your emotions at will, there are ways you can keep your emotions from driving your divorce. Here are 5 tips to help you do exactly that.
1. Do your homework. Take the time to figure out your own emotional triggers. What sets you off? What does your ex say or do that transforms you from a normal human being into a screaming maniac in 10 seconds or less? Those things are your emotional triggers.
Of course, when you are going through something as emotional as a divorce, it is easy for everything your spouse does to set you off. If that is where you are at right now, that’s actually okay. Just acknowledge it!
Sweeping your emotions aside, or pretending they don’t exist, only makes them come out in other ways. Suddenly, you will find yourself locked in battle with your spouse over a piece of furniture, or something else that doesn’t really matter. You will think you are arguing about the furniture. You’re not.
2. Find a healthy outlet for your emotions. After you know what your emotions are, the next thing you need to do is to find a way to express them that doesn’t destroy you, hurt your kids, or turn your divorce into the War of the Roses. Honestly, if you are wound as tightly as a pogo stick with a 300 pound man standing on it, you can’t expect to waltz through your divorce with the emotional calmness of the Dalai Lama.
One of the best emotional releases is to exercise. No matter how busy you are, find the time to spend an hour a day doing whatever form of exercise makes you feel good. Kick-boxing, martial arts and any kind of hard-driving cardio exercise will help you take out your aggressions. Yoga, tai chi and other meditative exercises will balance you.
Going to therapy is also a wise idea right now. A good therapist can help you make sense of what you are going through. S/he will be there to listen to you vent, and to guide you through the emotional roller coaster of divorce.
3. Don’t let your emotions drive you. I know. This is the hard one. But understanding your inner emotional landscape is useless unless you can also learn how to navigate through it and come out safely on the other side. To do that, you must learn to control your emotions, not let your emotions control you.
Now, before you go farther, please notice that I did not say: don’t feel your emotions. Of course you will feel them! But, the key is not to act on them. When it comes to divorce, you have to follow your head a lot more than you follow your heart.
How do you do that? First, try not to make your decisions impulsively. Give yourself time to think before you act – and before you call your lawyer! Also: breathe! When you feel angry or sad or emotionally triggered, stop whatever you are doing and take 10 deep breaths. Doing that will automatically bring down your heart rate, and restore your perspective.
4. Control your environment. What is outside of you matters as much as what is inside of you. Research has shown that if you are stuck in traffic, or are irritated or angry, that will affect the decisions that you make and the interactions that you have with others. It doesn’t matter what caused your anger or frustration. Just experiencing those emotions affects your mood, and your actions.
Knowing that things outside of yourself can dramatically affect how you think, act, and feel, is vital when you are trying to deal with your spouse or negotiate a settlement in your case. It helps you understand that where you have conversations is as important as what those conversations are about.
If you know that you are going to talk to your spouse, and especially if you know you are going to try to negotiate something important with your spouse, make sure that you are having that conversation in an emotionally neutral environment. Try to make sure you are well-rested. And whatever you do, don’t work yourself into a frenzy before your meeting by visualizing how badly it is going to go!
5. Stop Trying to Control Your Spouse. If you were not able to control your spouse in all of the years that you were married, what makes you think that you are going to be able to control your spouse when you are getting a divorce? You can’t. The more you try to control your spouse, the longer, uglier, and more expensive your divorce is going to be.
Not trying to control your spouse, though, is tricky because “control” wears many disguises. You may think that you are doing something for the good of your kids, when, in reality, what you are doing is designed to keep control over your spouse.
For example, if your spouse wants to take the kids to a concert with his/her new love, and you are objecting because the kids would then get home 2 hours later than what the court order says (on a non-school night!), is your objection really about what is best for the kids? Really?
Trying to keep your emotions from driving your divorce is really hard. Unless you are a robot, you won’t succeed all of the time. But, if you at least can understand your emotions and work to control them, instead of trying to control your spouse, you will be way ahead of most people, and much happier in the long run.